The final kilometres of the race saw the 24-year old single-handedly led a chase group up to the leaders, bridging a one-minute gap to make the catch in the final 500 metres. He then powered past everybody in the closing metres to take the biggest win of his career so far.
It was a barely believable scenario for spectators, but also for Van der Poel himself, who could hardly raise his arms in celebration as he crossed the line.
“I didn’t even have the energy to put my hands in the air,” he told Het Nieuwsblad after the finish. “At three kilometres from the finish, nobody could tell me in what position I was riding in this chaotic final. Not the race radio, nor the team car.
“I didn’t believe anymore that I was racing for the win. Only in the finishing straight did I see them all riding up ahead. I played it all or nothing and it became everything.”
It’s another chapter in an incredible spring classics debut for Van der Poel. He had already mastered cyclo-cross, and then some. Racing on the road is another matter entirely, but with genes likes his – Adri is his father, Raymond Poulidor his grandfather – his follow up to last season’s glimpses of potential has been, to an extent, predictable.
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